The Whale Museum News & Events
Updated: April 6, 2007
Whales' journey into record books
April 5, 2007
It is one of the most remarkable journeys by any creature on the planet - and it is made by one of the biggest creatures known to science.
Researchers have shown that humpback whales travelling between breeding grounds off the west coast of Central America and feeding grounds off Antarctica clocked up more than 8000 kilometres on one leg of their journey - the largest recorded journey by any mammal.
The researchers believe the whales are heading for warmer waters in which to give birth to their calves.
A team from the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington State, made daily excursions in boats off the coast of Central America to observe the whales between June and October, photographing the underside of the animals' tails so that they could be identified at the other end of their journey.
During the Antarctic summer, the team made similar observations. Seven animals were photographed in both locations and a mother and calf were seen in Antarctic waters 161 days after they had been spotted off Costa Rica, having travelled 8426 kilometres. Another individual was seen in different years at locations 8461 kilometres apart.
The study, reported in Biology Letters, ends the controversy over which whale species travels the furthest, according to Mark Simmonds, director of science at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
The grey whale's migration from Mexico to the Arctic is also an impressive voyage as is the journey of blue whales - the largest animals on the planet. But none of these animals have been shown to travel as far as the humpbacks.
The researchers, who found the animals were opting for waters around 24 to 25 degrees, believe that a high enough water temperature is crucial for them to breed.
Copyright © 2007. The Sydney Morning Herald.